This post was originally published in 2016. It bears repeating!
As I was growing up in the 50’s and 60’s (yes, I’m THAT old!) we never thought about pronouns. Boys were he and him and girls were she and her. We didn’t even know what it meant to be transgender. The first transgender person I was aware of was Renee Richards and I don’t think I ever thought about what pronouns were used before and what now. Once she was Renee, she was she.
Today, more and more kids are coming out as transgender, gender-fluid or genderqueer. There are a wide range of pronouns that are being used. I picked up the following from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Resource Center’s website. Not sure if they clear things up or make them more confusing!
With all those choices, how do we know which ones to use and with whom? We can start by sharing the pronouns we use and then ask “What pronouns do you use?” Who should you ask? Anyone you’re meeting for the first time. It may seem awkward at first, but once you do it a few times, it becomes second nature. The more of us who ask what pronouns another person uses, the more often we get the opportunity to educate.
So, now you know what pronouns the person uses. It can seem really weird to use ze or xe when it’s something you’ve never heard before. And what’s with using they, them and theirs? That is just not grammatically correct! So what. This is not about grammar, it is about respect. It is about respecting each individual for who they are and what they use. Personally, I like writing with purple or blue ink. Black ink, not so much. Would I want someone to tell me that I have to write exclusively with black ink from now on? Of course not. I respect your right to use whatever ink color you want. It may seem weird to me but that is your choice.
The same is true with pronouns. We each get to choose. I choose she, her, hers. The only reason it is easy is because it has been part of what’s usual to us for so many years. The more we use the pronouns we are not used to, the more usual they will become. So, don’t be afraid to ask and once you do, respect the pronouns of each individual.